Shining Like Stars Online: Avoid Jargon

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Shining Like Stars Online: Avoid Jargon

When I entered journalism school, one of the first lessons I learned was “don’t use jargon”. Webster’s Dictionary defines jargon as: “the vocabulary, peculiar to a particular trade, profession, or group, writing that one does not understand, or language that is vague in meaning.”

Typically, as young reporters, we ran into jargon when interviewing medical or legal professionals, and we would have to ask for clarification on the long words and convoluted phrases they threw at us. Now that I read and write more in the Christian arena, however, I’ve realized something slightly unsettling: Christians have jargon, and we use it liberally, without ever thinking of whom we might confuse or distance by our language.

Think about these terms: “redeemed”, “atoning sacrifice”, “led by the Spirit”, “having a peace about it”, “fruits of the Spirit”, “trusting in God’s providence”. Now, without familiarity with certain denominations or exposure to the Christian faith, many of these phrases and terms are complete jargon to many people. Because these terms are even confusing within the church walls, it’s important that when we write we take the time to carefully define our terms and give parameters for our language.

Consider this: someone writes a blog-post telling about a recent life-change, and she describes it as “God’s calling on her life” without any explanation of what she means. Many people won’t have any idea what she’s saying and might simply write it off as “Christianese” ruining an excellent opportunity for her to make an impact on their lives. Others will assume that she heard a literal voice of God booming from on high, or that she has had a major spiritual awakening. Others will imagine that she simply had a gut feeling about what God might want for her, and still others will think that a pastor or elder must have prophesied over her and told her what to do.

The truth is, any of these possibilities could be true, or none of them could be, and she could have an entirely different interpretation of what “God’s calling” means. Because we are not careful with our language, we leave the door open for miscommunication, misunderstanding and bad theology to run wild. The greatest danger here may not be the people who don’t understand her meaning at all, but those who assume that because this is a common phrase, they know precisely what she means by it. Just because we’ve heard many people write and talk about God’s calling doesn’t mean that we’ve ever heard it explained, and we could very easily be led astray simply because the writer doesn’t take time to define her terms.

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Many people believe this is a simple admonition against swearing, but it seems to me that there is more we can learn. Christianity is not simply a litany of “Thou Shalt Nots” but also teaches us what to do – how to live, love, speak and write to the world in an attractive way. If we want to live out this command and strive to let our readers to benefit from our words, it’s rather essential that they understand them.

As I said before, working as a reporter made me learn quickly how to explain difficult questions in simple ways, and I was taught that we were gate-keepers of media, entrusted with it’s readability and quality. In just a few short years, however, the media landscape has changed, and nearly anyone can quickly and poorly write whatever they like to a large audience. It’s beneficial because there are more resources available, but it has a downside: since everyone has a Facebook account or a blog and people frequently post flighty remarks, we start to believe that thoughtfulness and tasteful language is less important than it used to be. Our beliefs start to take on the appearance of millisecond soundbites, and we lose our effectiveness in the marketplace of ideas, because we can’t articulate our meaning.

A few years ago, I went through a Bible study about social justice and helping people in need. One of the main points the study made was how “poverty is not all material” and how poverty in relationships is often a precursor to more material hardships. I think that we can take that lesson even one step farther and note that poverty can occur in logic and thought as well. How many materially wealthy people have we all known who cannot articulate their beliefs or give reasons for their choices?

You might be wondering how to do this, or thinking that I’m asking for an impossible ideal – how can we possibly define every term we use? This is where the wisdom of Colossians 4:5-6 comes in, which says: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

The short answer is that we won’t always know if our audience completely understands our language. However, we can endeavor to communicate as clearly as possible, and avoid using jargon-like terms without explanation. In order to make sure our blog-posts, Facebook chatter and online life is gracious and “seasoned with salt” we have to think about the “flavor” of our words, how we communicate our message, and whether or not our stories are easy for our readers to meditate on and ingest. After all, if we are writing in a public place, we are not writing for ourselves, but for our reader. Precision in our language, although it sounds time-consuming and difficult, is critical to getting our message out and understood.

If we are not willing to break through the poverty of thought that is so rampant in our society, why should the world give any credence to what we say? Many people see through our unwillingness to break through our own jargon, and shake their head cynically at our faith, because it remains too hard to understand. We have a very real and substantial relationship with the God of the universe – why would we make that so hard for people outside our walls to grasp hold of?

So, again, as I have written throughout this “Shining Like Stars” series, I’m asking you, Christians, to be conscious of your calling. We cannot be satisfied with easy answers and heard-it-all-before jargon. Think of yourself as a reporter, telling the world about our faith, and writing so that everyone can read and understand. We have to be willing to confront the poverty of thought and definitions if we want to have an online light that shines.

 

You May Also Like:

Shining Like Stars Online:Write With Care
Shining Like Stars Online: We Are Sent

About The Author
Dani Nichols
Dani Nichols
Hi, I'm Dani. As managing editor of Trochia, my job is to edit all of our pieces and give our writers guidance with excellence, Biblical truth and gracious storytelling in mind. I love our mission and community here at Trochia and am so honored to work with this incredible team. I'm married to Adam and have beautiful baby girl, Adelay. We live in Oregon and enjoy kayaking, hiking, snowshoeing and sharing good food with friends and family.
101 Comments
Leave a response
  • Marcella Barros
    September 28, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    So true.

    0
  • Diane Bingham
    September 28, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    So true.

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  • Delores Baker
    September 28, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    So true

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  • Angela Austin
    September 28, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    true…

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  • Tex Heath
    September 28, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Sad, but true

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  • Elzi Fourcher
    September 28, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    Sorry, the things concerning to God, Truth will NEVER be a jargon even if somebody wants to consider it.

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  • David Maynard
    September 28, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    TO ME THESE TERMS ARE SACRED … AND TO MANY OTHERS ALSO JUST SAYIN GOD BLESS YOU FRIEND ..

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  • Maryjane Watson
    September 29, 2012 at 4:16 am

    Said from the faithful heart abiding in Christ, God is manifesting the truth.

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  • Sealy Walker
    September 29, 2012 at 5:03 am

    It’s jargon to those who aren’t “saved” right?!

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  • Victoria Slone
    September 29, 2012 at 10:12 am

    I AGREE WITH MARY JANE !

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  • Dovie Hall
    September 29, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Wise Words

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  • Seth Shewmaker
    September 30, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    Yes, Amen!

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  • Pat Smithpeter
    September 30, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    This is true for the lack of understanding.

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  • Randee L. Sellers
    September 30, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    I call it Religiobabble. The “righteous” catch phrases. Jargon…sometimes another language to non- church ppl. I get what you’re saying.

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  • Randee L. Sellers
    September 30, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    Almost standard phrasing from TV evangelicals and a turn off.

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  • Cheri Beck Loftis
    September 30, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    I agree many phrase can be turn off, but there really is no better way to describe when your heart and God’s are in sync there is a peace that passes all understanding. The scripture says it will not return void. That it has power to change hearts. If some reject it for what it is, they are not being fed because they are stubborn hearted and won’t open their mouths to eat the bread of life!

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  • Gwen Raley
    September 30, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    It’s like medical terms.If you can’t let the people know what you’re talking about.There is no need to open your mouth .

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  • Julia Wilcox
    October 1, 2012 at 8:21 am

    Amen! I have had people tell me, you don’t need to explain, Yes you do!!!

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  • Argelia E. Davey
    October 1, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    “Love one another” – “Peace on Earth” – “Understanding” and “Kindness” do not need to be explained to anyone. “Jargon” as you say, are particular phrases used by particular people to convey a particular message. We are moving into a “universal” kind of spirituality.

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  • Dan Coleman
    August 27, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    I was a dead man walking ( spiritually not physically) ….but praise God I am alive . The new birth

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  • Dan Coleman
    August 27, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Dead man walking is a great southern gospel performed by Won by One . Unfortunately they are no longer together.

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  • Maria De la Rosa
    August 27, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    Amen iam a new child to praise god

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  • Jonathan Vs
    August 27, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    Means that I died to my sinful life in order to live a better one.

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  • Janet Poppell
    August 27, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    Amen I have been made new. Thank you lord

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  • Dan Pratt
    August 27, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Being born again is like the ultimate mulligan.the old you is no longer.made over in Christ’s love.

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  • Cindy Phillips
    August 27, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    A Relationship with My SAVIOR,Cause He first Loved Me

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  • Patty Marino
    August 27, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    i put my love and trust in God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and know that I will go to Heaven when my time comes because I love them and are saved in His name

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  • Oliver Delk
    August 27, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    AMEN

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  • Dave Holcomb
    August 27, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    TO change your mind about ungodly things, and to walk in Gods Footsteeps.

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  • Scarlett Hutchinson
    August 27, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    AMEN.

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  • Seanapril Galvin
    August 27, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    until you ask jesus in you cant understand

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  • Billy Connally
    August 27, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    Reading & believeing the Scriptures;2 Corinthians 5:17. therefore if any man be in Christ,he is a new creature;old things are passed away;behold all things are become new. Jesus told Nicodemus;”except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Jhn.3:3. KJV.

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  • Bessie Hill
    August 27, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    Amen!!!

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  • Darinand Susan
    August 27, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    It means a renewing, a changing of who you are…your ind, heart, and spirit are conformed to His image…no longer ruled by the sin nature….

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  • Darlene Myers
    August 27, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    My rebirth…. I was given the mind of Christ to understand the things of God by the Holy Spirit living inside me…speaking to my heart and making intercession with the Father

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  • Alice Faye Woods
    August 27, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Amen

    0
  • Patricia J. Roberts Slocum
    August 27, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    owing in your heart and soul that you have been given the supreme love just because you are you.

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  • Karen L Pettit
    August 27, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Being “born again” is a lot like being born the first time except instead of a baby human, there is a “baby” believer. The baby human has only his physical life until death. The new believer has eternal life to look forward to and the guidance of a loving heavenly father who will lead us into all truth!

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  • Bettie Stanley
    August 27, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    We serve a risen living God.

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  • Ruth Hastings Sanders
    August 27, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    Changed, transformed, on the path to His Image due to His Presence.

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  • Martin Ruoss
    August 27, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    Losing my worldly self, and accepting the Lord’s direction to me, thru His great gift given for me.

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  • Eloise Aubrey Breault
    August 27, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    The way I felt after I went to the altar and prayed, I am sure all most every body have felt this, You play in the ocean all day play in the sand, then go home and take a hot shower, fell oh so gooooood. I felt clean inside and out side. To this day I feel so good after praying and being in a good church service. I t hasbeen 65 years since I first felt this and it has been continued daily. 🙂

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  • Darlene Tapley
    August 27, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    We become new creators who has had all our sins nailed to the cross of Christ Jesus who comes to live life with those who call on HIS name. Filling up with HIS WORD renews our minds and gives us hope of a wonderful future! Praise the Lord for HIS mercy and grace!

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  • Takieaa ReyFaun
    August 27, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Thanks for asking because it is a good question. i discribe being born again as a HOLY SPIRIT led journey from the flesh to a love motivated awakening into the kingdom of GOD and an understanding of JESUS and the root of HIS choices acts and works. In layman terms it is something that you experience heart to heart and one on one with JESUS CHRIST once you make a conscious decision to submit to HIM in obedience to our FATHER’s will. 🙂

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  • Vivian Self
    August 27, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Old man dies to get eternal life through Jesus Christ when asking Him for forgiveness of one’s sins, turn’s his faith towards Jesus for remissions of sins.

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  • Donald C.Vest
    August 27, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    AMEN

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  • Rebecca Morgan Larson
    August 27, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    Such Love and Peace!

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  • Bobby Lewis
    August 27, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    can’t explain it happens and you no it but unexplainable except you are a new person completely different and you did nothing to change it just happened.

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  • Carmen Perez
    August 27, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    Never Never give up !

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  • Trish Lowe Lemmon
    August 27, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    You are given a second chance. A fresh start. And this time, you’ll get it right because you’re doing God’s will and not your own.

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  • Edwin Otero
    August 27, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    It’s like waiting on that test result from the doctor’s office and hearing it’s “negative”!!

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  • Rose Pursley
    August 27, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    Jesus said what is born of the flesh is flesh and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. By excepting Jesus as our savior and becoming a member of the body of Christ we die to selves daily and become a new creation in Christ. There are two realms that intertwine on Earth. The physical realm and the Spiritual Realm. By being filled with the Holy Spirit (who work is to give us God’s wisdom, spiritual wisdom) we learn to walk in the spirit and not in the flesh. Our eyes must always be focused on Jesus for if thy eye is single thy whole body will be full of light. Jesus said, ” I am the way the truth and the life, no man can come to the Father but through me.” By building our relationship with Jesus allowing ourselves to be filled with the Holy Spirit and praising and thanking God, we let Jesus shine through our light in the world.

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  • Candace Desiree Kittinger
    August 27, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    🙂

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  • Jimmy Gilson
    August 27, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    This is defined as your spiritual birth. I use this hen I speak to Christian groups. If you have one birth you have two deaths. You experience the physical and the spiritual death. If you have two births you only have one death and that is the physical. With the spiritual birth you live forever. This the promise that God gives us all.

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  • Stephen Therey
    August 27, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    amen

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  • Jacqueline Brophy-Cruz
    August 27, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    Jonathan Vs is right!

    0
  • Gail Fuller Brock
    August 27, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    Just Believe it!

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  • Donna Lea French
    August 27, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    I call it saved to a new life with Jesus as my savior!!

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  • Sharon Stuart
    August 27, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    Amen.

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  • Elizabeth Messick
    August 27, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    Dying to self

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  • Mike Chan
    August 27, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    Amen

    0
  • Joyce Harkins Heimberger
    August 27, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    New life in Christ!

    0
  • Rhonda Ousley
    August 27, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    to me it means bein born again to have love like jesus had in his heart and havin close personal relations with him and i have and so blessed to get to feel him

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  • Robert Chalmers
    August 27, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    When we accepted christ and our lord and savior.We had to die .as he died. So we could be born again through him. Sin free by HIS blood,that He gave for our life.

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  • Denise Taylor Daughtry
    August 27, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    I have a T-Shirt that says, “Born Again, I didn’t turn out right the first time.” John 3

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  • Shannon Carlisle
    August 27, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    Born again means being seperated from sin and everything that is not of CHRIST JESUS BEING BORN AGAIN IS WHEN YOU SEE EVERYTHING IN A SPRITUAL WAY THE WAY GOD SEES EVERYTHING BEING BORN AGAIN IS WHEN YOUR HEART IS FULLY SUBMITTED TOWARD CHRIST JESUS BEING BORN AGAIN IS BEING BROKEN EVERY SECOND BEFORE GOD JEHOVAH IN JESUS CHRIST NAME I PRAY TO BE BORN AGAIN . . AGAIN . . I WILL NEVER TAKE MY EYES OR HEART OFF JESUS CAUSE HE IS THE ONLY WAY TO BE BORN AGAIN PLEASE IF YOUR READING THIS PRAY FOR ME I NEED A REVIVAL IN MY WALK WITH JESUS I HAVE A WORLDLY MIND WHEN I LONG TO BE BORN AGAIN . . AGAIN . . . IN JESUS NAME I PRAY TRANSFORM MY MIND LET OF GET A HOLD OF THIS THING Wake me up JESUS SHAKE ME LORD I NEED YA JESUS PLEASE LORD CALL ON ME BRING ME TO REPENTANCE LORD TO TURN COMPLETLY AWAY FROM MY SELF JESUS PLEASE I NEED YOUR HELP LORD SAINTS PRAY WITH AND FOR ME THANK YOU AND MAY THE GOOD LORD BLESS YOU ALL

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  • Manuel Bonilla
    August 27, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    amen

    0
  • Cynthia Boullard
    August 28, 2013 at 12:12 am

    Amen

    0
  • Joyce Thacker Mitchell
    August 28, 2013 at 5:09 am

    Amen

    0
  • Robert Gates
    August 28, 2013 at 5:40 am

    It means Jesus forgave me of my sins because I asked Him to. He forgave me and gave me eternal life with Him. He wrote my name in the lambs book of life. That is being born again. Thank you Jusus

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  • Susan Falconer Berry
    August 28, 2013 at 8:00 am

    Amen! Praise God!

    0
  • Belinda Rader
    August 28, 2013 at 10:08 am

    Heaven came down and glory filled my soul. Now I have new attitude and wonderful happy lifeGods Holy Spirit in my soul leading the way with love

    0
  • Ron Neva
    August 28, 2013 at 10:37 am

    before I was saved I didn,t have the faith to believe on the Lord,after I received Christ I had it (he that believes is born of God)

    0
  • James Michael McDonough
    August 28, 2013 at 11:00 am

    By my actions. I don’t do the things I used to do.

    0
  • Debby Browning
    August 28, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    you have to be ready for this you want to find what you have looked for all your life you don’t know why but it is there you have to ask jesus Christ to open your eyes and heart ask him to come in to your heart and to forgive you of all your sins and have faith that you are saved by jesus Christ because jesus died for you was born so we could live in heaven with Christ jesus and get babtised and babtisem in the spirit of Christ jesus and believe he rose from the dead was killed just so we could live threw him amen

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  • Shirley Scoggins
    August 28, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    To be born again is when the spiritual self becomes far more important than the physical self. Thank You Jesus for this truth.

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  • RevTom Stuart
    August 28, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    They was christian have conceived it means that you accept Jesus as your savior and are born anew as a Child of God. Also Jesus said you must be born again to enter unto the Kingdom of Heaven. He was talking about after death you will have a new birth into heaven where all will be reborn and renewed. He said what comes from heaven must return to heaven. He said he talked of Spiritual things not physical.

    0
  • Paula Maddox
    September 1, 2013 at 12:18 am

    forgiven,wiped clean, fresh start, new beginning,empowered, delivered, made whole

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  • Linda Dixon
    September 1, 2013 at 1:00 am

    I believe it means we have truely seen what Jesus has given us thru the blood of His sacrifice – the gift of Eternal Life – and APPRECIATE Him for what He suffered for us – and ACCEPT this Amazing gift we have been offered – and sincerely ask for forgiveness of our sins … and sincerely try to sin no more. The Bible calls it – Repent – and ask Jesus to help us be how we should be. Every day I ask Him to help me be the person I should be … and the days I fall down (and I do sometimes) . . . I ask His forgiveness, and to help me do what is right. A wonderful scripture to help when I have made mistakes is Romans 8: 28… “He searches the heart … and knows what is in the mind of the spirit.” –

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  • Cheryl Harris
    December 13, 2013 at 6:19 am

    Yes he has and he will never leave his loved ones until he raptures us into beautiful eternity with him

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  • Mel Caballero Dizon
    December 13, 2013 at 6:28 am

    Love it

    0
  • Pam Houliston
    December 13, 2013 at 7:36 am

    AMEN

    0
  • Lillian Keller
    December 13, 2013 at 7:38 am

    amen

    0
  • Nana Gumbi
    December 13, 2013 at 8:47 am

    Amen

    0
  • Maria L. Cepeda
    December 13, 2013 at 9:52 am

    amen

    0
  • Darrell Glover
    December 13, 2013 at 11:11 am

    Amen!!

    0
  • Woodrow Hawkins
    December 13, 2013 at 11:26 am

    Amazing

    0
  • Linda Bozick
    December 13, 2013 at 11:27 am

    AMEN

    0
  • Evelyn Skinner
    December 13, 2013 at 11:39 am

    AMEN!

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  • Kathy Conley
    December 13, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Amen

    0
  • Lena West
    December 13, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    Amen
    a

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  • Terence Jones
    December 13, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    amen!

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  • Eileen Hope
    December 13, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    Show kindness and love to ALL.

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  • Lindy Perry
    December 14, 2013 at 1:32 am

    AMEN

    0
  • Karthikxyz Karthik
    December 14, 2013 at 6:02 am

    moon light

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  • Joyce Thacker Mitchell
    December 14, 2013 at 7:02 am

    AMEN

    0
  • Linda Dixon
    December 16, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Helping others .

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  • Linda Bazinet
    September 11, 2014 at 8:40 am

    Amen

    0
  • Blanca Stn
    September 11, 2014 at 9:37 am

    Amen

    0
  • Ikeakhe George
    September 11, 2014 at 11:39 am

    Amen

    0
  • Myrna Melton
    September 13, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    AAmen

    0

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